New Braunfels, Texas. A relatively small city in the middle of Texas, located in Texas Hill Country on the border of Comal and Guadalupe counties, where a community of between 4,000–6,000 Texans differentiate themselves from other Texans in an extraordinary way: they all speak German (a Texafied version of it, anyway) as their first language. While the language, called Texasdeutsch („Texas German“) by linguists, is facing the same sad future as many other dialects and languages in the age of Smartphones and Internet, it once was the primary language of as many as 100,000 Texans!
I came across Texasdeutsch while looking at upcoming talks being given at the University, one of which is being delivered by Texasdeutsch’s primary researcher and advocate: Hans Boas, a Germanist and Linguist at the University of Texas Austin. While Texasdeutsch is technically a dialect of German, it has many features which make it very distinct from standard German, most notably the absence of a genitive case, the dovetailing of the accusative and dative cases, and, of course, the massive influx of Englishisms in its vocabulary. Words which you would expect to come from Texans have pervaded the language, so one may encounter a sentence like: „Der beste Cowboy der County hat einen Blanket im Luftschiff gefunden.“ (The best Cowboy in the County found a blanket in the airplane (lit: air-ship)).
The reason for the existence of Texasdeutsch is the Mainzer Adelsverein, otherwise known as the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas. This organization, founded in 1842, was dedicated to establishing a new Germany within the borders of Texas, and sent many families to Texas between its founding and the first World War. Many of the initial colonies failed, but some remain to this day, the largest and most successful of which being New Braunfels.
The language began its sharp decline in native-speakers following the political and cultural effects of the 20th century’s two world wars on Texas. Once English had been made the mandatory language of instruction in schools and the cultural attitude towards Germany cooled, parents no longer taught the language to their children. Linguists estimate the language will have completely died out by the year 2040; most of its current speakers already qualify for society security. Regardless, I will always find it interesting that for many years, thousands of Texans woke up every day saying: „Guten morgen!“